Isaac’s Covenant – 1804 B.C. & Rights of the First Born

Finger Waving UpJacob seems like a scammer.  I don’t understand why You allowed Jacob to buy Esau’s birthright?

“And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham.  And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar. 

And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:

Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I swear unto Abraham thy father;

And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;

Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Gen 26:1-5).

“Isaac went and lived in Gerar and he told the Philistines that Rebekah was his sister, just like Abraham did, and he dealt with the same king, or at maybe it was his son, the Bible doesn’t tell.

And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us?  One of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us. 

1. Gerar Map
Gerar was an ancient town in the Negev, in the south of the land of Israel, roughly half-way between Beersheba and Gaza.In the time of Abraham, it was ruled by a Philistine king named Abimelech.

Both Abraham and Isaac (who was born in the area) made a treaty with the king of Gerar, after separate incidents in which both claimed that their wives were their sisters, in order to keep from bring killed.

And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death (Gen 26:10-11).

God blessed Isaac and he became very wealthy and prosperous.  The Philistines were jealous of Isaac’s wealth so they stopped up all the wells that Abraham had dug, so Isaac and his men dug more wells. 

Then they moved on to Beer-sheba, remember where Abraham had made an altar for God and Hagar and Ishmael had run to when Sarah kicked them out.

And the LORD appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake. 

And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac’s servants digged a well.

Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army. 

And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you? 

And they said, We saw certainly that the LORD was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee;

That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of the LORD. 

And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink” (Gen 26:24-30).

“And it came to pass the same day, that Isaac’s servants came, and told him concerning the well, which they had digged, and said unto him, We have found water. 

2. Abimelech
Abimelech (/əˈbɪməˌlɛk/; אֲבִימֶלֶךְ ’Ǎḇîmeleḵ) was a son of judge Gideon. His name can best be interpreted “my father is king”, claiming the inherited right to rule. He is introduced in Judges 8:31 as the son of Gideon and his Shechemite concubine, and the biblical account of his reign is described in chapter nine of the Book of Judges. According to the Bible, he was an unprincipled, ambitious ruler, often engaged in war with his own subjects.

And he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is Beer-sheba unto this day.

And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:

Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah” (Gen 26:32-35).

1 The punishment for adultery by The Hammurabi Code was drowning.

Rights of the First Born

The Hebrew term bet av (“paternal household”) reflects the fact that in ancient Israel the family was patrilineal: Inher­itances were passed through the male line.

The patriarch had authority over the entire household, including sons, daughters-in-law, unmarried daughters and grandchildren.

Upon the patriarch’s death the firstborn son became the new head of the family, and the paternal lineage of the extended family con­tinued through him.

This firstborn son, there­fore, exercised both special privileges and unique responsibilities.

Several Biblical texts stipulate that the firstborn belonged to the Lord and needed to be redeemed (since all firstborn sons be­longed to God after the plague on the first­born in Egypt, Israelites had to symbolically buy them back with animal sacrifices, according to Ex 13:2,12-16; 22:29; Nu 3:13.

The firstborn took precedence over his younger brothers and received a double portion of the inheritance, as well as a spe­cial blessing.

3. The Hellenistic period
The Hellenistic period begins formally with the arrival of Alex­ander the Great in the Near East in 334BCE, but this date is not the beginning of Greek influence in the region.

The Near East as a whole, and Palestine and its Jewish residents more particularly, first came under Aegean influence in the fourteenth century BCE. As trade connections increased, this influence became much more extensive

This explains why Jacob took Esau’s birthright.

The patriarch/father was not free to arbi­trarily assign the first son’s birthright to a younger sibling, although the birthright could pass to another son in excep­tional circumstances (e.g., Reuben lost his birthright because he had defiled his father’s bed).

Documents from Nuzi and Mari reveal that if a concubine bore the first son, his birthright could be withdrawn if the primary wife subsequently gave birth to a son.

As had occurred between Ishmael and Isaac.

We also have access to Nuzi documents called “tablet of brotherhood” contracts. These concern the sale of a birthright to someone outside the family (based on a legal loophole of adopting the outsider as a family member) for the purpose of transferring property.

Although not identical in concept to what we see in Gen 25:27 and following, these Nuzi texts do indicate that the birthright could be sold or traded and provide some precedent for Esau’s sale of his birthright to Jacob.

The concept underlying the rights of the firstborn son has theological implications. The nation of Israel enjoyed a special rela­tionship with the Lord as his firstborn.

But Ps 89:27 indicates that Christ is the Lord’s firstborn. This is not to be seen as a contradiction.

Believers who are in Christ share in the privileges his intimate relation­ship with the Father entails (Heb 12:23-24), and we are warned not to spurn or devalue our birthright as Esau did (Heb 12:16-17).

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